No, Black Women Don’t Want To Be Fat
A Black Girl's Guide To Weight Loss' Erika Kendall weighs in on the controversy
The war on black women in the media seems to be never ending and the newest topic to go viral is that “black women are fat because they want to be.” This according to writer Alice Randall whose, controversial New York Times article has caused quite a stir among African American women on the accusation that their health and being fit is not a priority to them. However, not everyone feels that way. Erika Kendall, the creator of the blog A Black Girl's Guide To Weight Loss spoke exclusively with Loop 21, about why Randall’s comments are harmful to black women, the importance of healthy eating and why never giving up on your weight loss goals will save your life.
Loop 21: Your site A Black Girl's Guide To Weight Loss is a favorite among many African-American women. Why did you create it?
Kendall: I created Black Girls Guide To Weight Loss basically as a guide to keep track of the things I was learning during my own desire to lose weight. When I first started the blog I had lost about 90 pounds. I needed a source of accountability for myself and I figured if I write it down than I can’t say I didn’t know. Before I knew it, it had picked up enough steam and a great following along the way.
Loop 21: You started the site in 2009, how has it changed your life?
Kendall: It has made me a very compassionate person. When people talk about obesity they always say eat less and lose more. However, I’ve learned that it’s so much more than that. It has helped to address some of the issues from my own past and also I’ve learned that everyone is very emotionally attached to their bodies in the state that they’re in. It takes a lot of looking inward. It’s given me a greater understanding of weight issues in society.
Loop 21: Recently author Alice Randall wrote an article for the New York Times where she stated that black women want to be fat. What are your thoughts on her statement?
Kendall: That article was extremely frustrating to me. It’s not that “black women want to be fat.” Some black women have accepted their bodies and themselves for who they are and may not be as pressed as other members of society to fit some type of mold. More often than not black women have a lot to deal with, they’re not going to battle their bodies. They’re the only ones they’ve got and they’ve got to perform. I find more than anything that it’s confusing to say that black woman are fat because they “want” to be without looking at structural issues that might prevent everyone from having access to do what they need to do. You know not everyone has the access or can afford a monthly gym, exercise classes, fresh produce, healthily grown meat. Not everyone has the knowledge of how to cook. We’re only a couple generations separated from our family members who had to cook everything. There are so many more things that prevent black woman from losing weight so I thought her article in the Times was harmful to the conversation and in a sense, useless.
Loop 21: Many were against Randall’s comments, but some say that older black women in their late 40s, 50s and 60s are set in their ways and may not care as much about being fat as the young generation of black women. Do you agree with this and how do we get them to change their minds?
Kendall: I don’t think it’s so much an entire group of women as it is the individual. You have to talk to them where it matters most. You can still cook, but it’s the way you cook. For instance vegetable oil has a lot of trans fat and is more than likely the reason so many of our loved ones have cancer. You can’t use certain types of milk, these types of cream and these types of beef because you don’t even know what’s in it. Ask them if they’re putting season salt, regular salt and garlic salt when they’re cooking their food. That means they’re using three different servings of salt. It’s all about educating and saying you can still eat good food, it’s just in the way you prepare it. You really have to be careful how you talk to people and make sure you do it with care
Loop 21: There are so many myths when it comes to weight loss, what are some of the biggest one’s you’ve busted a long your journey?
Kendall: I’ve learned that the key to weight loss is not in a label, it’s really about sticking to the basics and that is lean proteins, fruit and vegetables. Nothing other than those three things can help you maintain and lose weight. The idea that you can eat whatever you want and burn it off later is also a huge myth and very problematic. Sure you can spend hours in the gym burning off those cookies, but then you’re not losing anything, only what you consumed. Another myth is that weight loss is all about this magical willpower. You have to tap into this magical willpower, that’s not there. However, if you’ve never had to say no before it’s not going to be easy. Habituation plays a huge part in your ability to say no and developing your ability.
Loop 21: What are some of you favorite healthy meals to eat throughout the day?
Kendall: For breakfast, I love having a large grapefruit and Greek yogurt or an omelet with lots of peppers, Mediterranean salad with balsamic vinaigrette for lunch; my favorite dinner is Kung Pao chicken. Instead of rice I use lots of broccoli and red peppers.
Loop 21: Protein shakes, supplements, diet pills are big in modern day society for losing weight. What are your thoughts on them?
Kendall: Diet pills are a scam, every last one. While you may lose weight on a diet pill you’ll gain it back after it’s over because you’re relying on an artificial source for appetite suppression. You can’t stay on a diet pill forever. Meal supplements are a scam too. [They contain] really bad ingredients and I find that you’d be better off trying to scour the Internet for a recipe and you’ll do better than any meal shake can do for you.
Loop 21: What’s your advice to that woman who has given up when it comes to getting to their goal weight?
Kendall: Avoid saying that you can’t do it. Spend time doing your research. Find recipes that you enjoy, do what you can to cook more. Go on that daily walk and you’ll start seeing movement on that scale that you didn’t see before. Losing weight is also preserving your health, so keep that at the top of your mind.
Loop 21: Where do you want to see your site go?
Kendall: My readership is awesome; they paid for my certification as a personal trainer. I’d like to use that certification to expand the blog anymore as a bigger source of information that’s backed by science and backed by studies. I’d love to have meetings focused on weight loss across the country. Also, turning it into a book or even television talk show would be great as well.
Loop 21: Regarding your journey so far with Black Girls Guide To Weight Loss, what are you most proud of?
Kendall: I’m proud that my readers and myself can be a living embodiment of everything that’s wrong with Alice Randall’s article. Saying that black women are complacent when it comes to their size is completely untrue and my Web site proves that. We have families, we are matriarchs and we’re strong. To have a community of 75,000 women who have subscribed to my blog who say I’m not fat because I want to be or not healthy I because I don’t want to be is a constant reminder that we’re trying to end obesity in one generation. We want to live healthy and happy.
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